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Fourth Book of DU Archivist Tom White Collects News of the Weird, ’Burgh-style

Whether you’re looking for a short story collection while you wait in an airport, need a Pittsburgh-centric last-minute present or want a stress-breaking diversion, Forgotten Tales of Pittsburgh, will capture your attention.

Thomas White

The fourth book of Duquesne University archivist Thomas White collects strange tales about Pittsburgh and its environs in breezy reading. It offers a look at what White calls “panic, murder and miracles.” The variety of tales, spanning from Lewis and Clark adventures to the present day, gives a glimpse at heroes, forgotten disasters, strange accidents and oddities among us, providing a history lesson, often with humor.

White, who has written Legends and Lore of Western Pennsylvania, Forgotten Tales of Pennsylvania and Ghosts of Southwestern Pennsylvania, uses his knowledge of the area and his expertise as former archivist with the Heinz History Center to bring these stories to light. These quirky tales come courtesy of old news reports, police excerpts, old county history and obscure archival documents.

“I tried, as best I could, to check the details,” White assures readers. But some stories, well, just take them at face value.

One story involves murder on the Bluff. In the 1860s, when Locust Street was home to brickyards instead of Duquesne’s academic buildings, two German immigrants were tried in the brutal beating and stabbing death of a fellow countryman on what then was called Boyd’s Hill.

Some other stories:

  • As a cartoon on the cover illustrates, four-legged inhabitants of a farm once operated by a one-eyed woman in Butler County also had but one eye.
  • Famed inventor Nikolas Tesla’s attempts to interest Westinghouse Corp. in buying his design for a death ray. The plans have mysteriously disappeared.
  • The black helicopter panic of the 1990s in the Mon Valley.
  • Death in New Brighton, due to a night of chicken-stealing (and drinking).
  • Activities and a curse at Fort Fayette, the last of the colonial forts built in the Pittsburgh area.
  • A counterfeiting ring, as well as ghosts, based in local lock-ups.
  • An outlawed forerunner to horoscopes in Beaver County’s Beaver Weekly Argus.
  • Weeping icons in McKeesport, Belle Vernon and Mercer County.

If these don’t interest you, maybe a talking dog, a Jack the Ripper suspect in Pittsburgh, the first armored car robbery (not in New York City, but in Bethel Park) and George Washington’s lost jewelry will.

The 160-page book ($12.99) was published by The History Press.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.